Differences Between Amalgam and Composite Fillings


The most significant difference between amalgam and composite fillings is that the latter doesn’t contain mercury. Of course, they’re also not silver, which is one reason dental patients like them.

While we won’t debate the safe mercury level here, we know it’s a concern for many patients. You’ll want to talk about any concerns you have directly with your dentist, as your health, safety, and confidence in dental treatments are their top priorities.

Most patients choose to get their teeth filled with resin-based composites because they’re more aesthetically pleasing than traditional silver fillings.

Next, we’ll discuss some of the advantages beyond beautiful smiles.

Advantages of Composite Fillings

While a healthy smile is always a plus, if your dentist can offer you a treatment for cavities that includes aesthetics and other advantages, it’s worth consideration.

In addition to a dental filling with a natural, tooth-colored appearance, a composite filling requires less removal of your tooth’s structure to get the decay out. The dentist may still need to drill out the decay, but since the procedure requires less invasion into the tooth’s structure, you shouldn’t need as much drilling.

In most cases, composite fillings resist the development of cavities better than amalgam fillings. They’re less likely to leak or break over time, too, because they bond more tightly with your tooth. All in all, composite resin fillings are an excellent choice for anyone who wants to save their tooth from further damage!

If you have dental insurance, there’s another significant plus to choosing a composite resin filling. The number of insurance providers that cover composite fillings is growing. In the past, insurance often did not cover anything but an amalgam filling.

How Long Will the Procedure Take?

When you choose to have a composite filling, your dentist can usually finish the procedure in one visit. Generally, it would be best if you planned on sitting in the dentist’s chair for about an hour to an hour and a half. An amalgam filling can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

One factor that plays a role in the time it takes to complete the procedure is the amount of decay in the tooth is filled. Also, if you’re planning to have sealants applied after the dentist places the filling, that could add a small amount of time to your procedure.


The Composite Filling Process

If you’ve had an amalgam dental filling, you’re familiar with the routine: numb, drill, and fill. The procedure for a composite filling is similar, but there are differences.

First, your dentist will numb the area around the tooth if necessary. There are instances where a patient may not need any numbing medication, but that’s something to discuss with the dentist.

Since this filling bonds to the tooth, a dry surface is vital. To keep the area dry, most dentists use a rubber dam to isolate the tooth. This not only provides a dry surface but also helps prevent contamination of the open tooth with saliva.

After removing any decay, the dentist prepares the tooth to receive the filling material. Your dentist may use a chemical that helps ensure the filling material bonds to the tooth. Composite resin fillings require a multi-step bonding process, which is one reason why the procedure often takes a little longer than getting an amalgam filling.

After placing, shaping, and curing each composite material layer, the dentist removes the dam, and your tooth is ready for polishing.

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